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Stockholm, Sweden

WTF is INGRID?

WTF is INGRID?

Lykke Li, Miike Snow, and a Whole Bunch of Other Swedes Descend From Valhalla, Form Music Label

By Marlon Bishop
April 25, 2012

By now, it’s clear that Sweden is HQ for the Illuminati. The frosty nation is populated entirely by blonde socialist hipsters who spend their days sitting in minimalist furniture and crafting electronic pop hits. These are the facts.

Now, many of this nation’s most renowned citizens have banded together to form a Justice League-style record label and art collective known as INGRID.  Members include Lykke Li, Miike Snow, Peter Bjorn and John, and The Teddybears, among others. The group maintains a very DIY-looking website and just put out a double-vinyl compilation called INGRID Volym 1 on April 21, in honor of Record Store Day.

The Mellqvist Kaffebar in Stockholm

The Mellqvist Kaffebar in Stockholm (Credit: Getty Images)

The idea for the collective was hatched over coffee at the Mellqvist Kaffebar, a popular hole-in-the-wall in Stockholm’s hip Birkastan neighborhood (and, apparently, frequent hangout of Girl With A Dragon Tattoo Author  Stieg Larsson). The assembled group of very important Swedes were asking themselves some difficult questions.

“Isn’t there more to life than world tours, indie cred and empty pockets? Couldn’t we be creating straight from the heart right to the people without any middle hands? Is it not 2012?”

As it happens, the Mellqvist Kaffebar is located in the same building as a massive music studio once owned by ABBA and formerly known as Polar Studios, which is one of Sweden’s most important recording hubs. Everybody from Led Zeppelin to the Backstreet Boys has dropped tracks within its walls. Now the studio is owned in part by Pontus Winnberg, alias Avant, who is a member of Miike Snow as well as a mega-producer who wrote a zillion pop songs for Madonna, J. Lo, Kelis, and Britney Spears, including “Toxic.”

Between sessions, this sect of Sweden’s indie-pop glitterati hangs out at the Kaffebar and drinks lattes by the liter.

It was on one of these coffee breaks that the musicians decided to start INGRID, named after the iconic Swedish actress Ingrid Bergman, to create a space where they are free to experiment in ways they can’t on their major labels. “INGRID is mainly a platform where our friends can realize their most creative ideas,” said musician and INGRID member Tomas Nordmark in an interview. “Maybe not their most commercial ideas, but INGRID is not aiming at being commercial.”

Pontus Winnberg

Pontus Winnberg of Miike Snow and INGRID (Credit: Getty Images)

According to Nordmark, in surefire Swedish fashion, nobody is in charge of INGRID – all 15 or so members are equal partners in the endeavor. The artists involved will continue to meet their label obligation while releasing material on INGRID on the side.

The upcoming vinyl compilation features 15 tracks by different bands, many of which are low-profile side projects of major artists. For example, there’s a track by Hortlax Cobra, which is a name used by Peter Bjorn and John’s John Eriksson.  There’s an orchestral pop tune by Miike Snow singer Andrew Wyatt, which has been leaked (stream below). There’s also a track by Little Majorette, whose band is made up of members of Miike Snow. And so on and so on. It’s all one, big, happy Scandinavian family.

Aside from the compilation, INGRID is also producing a short film. They leaked three scenes on the site, consisting black and white images of long-haired men looking serious and lighting fires.

Polar Studios has now been renamed INGRID Studios, so it seems like they are taking this idea pretty seriously. Then again, maybe not. “Sometimes we have parties there and invite all the hipsters from the café,” says Nordmark. “Now that is having fun at work.”

So will INGRID incubate a new musical consciousness that will change the universe? Or is this just a group of music industry insiders in Sweden hanging out at the coffee shop outside their studio making cool stuff outside the grip of their meddlesome music labels? Considering that some of these people ARE the pop music industry, the aforementioned “indie cred and empty pockets,” the cheapo-looking site and the art-house film clips seem a little disingenuous. But I guess if I just wrote 20 Britney Spears songs, I’d probably be hankering for some unfiltered, arsty-fartsy, bona fide creative expression as well.

And there’s no denying it – these Swedes really know how to craft a compelling pop song. What is their secret? “That’s very easy to answer,” says Tomas Nordmark. “We’ve got six months, at least, of extreme dark winter. Being trapped inside that long periods just force you to make creative stuff. Or drink coffee.”

Anyone want to move to Siberia and see if it works?

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